I used to look at a fit person and think, “I wonder what they do for a workout and how often are they hitting the gym, every day?” Now I know the truth, it’s not about what workout they’re doing, but what they’re eating that’s the most important.
You’ve probably heard that phrase “calories in, calories out,” which means that if you just burn more calories than you’re taking in, you’ll lose the weight you need to.
While I’m not disagreeing with that statement, I’d like to dig into the benefits I’ve seen from dropping 26 lbs. by focusing on my nutrition, not on using output alone to drive the change. I’m still baffled by all this even a year later because I never saw myself having that much to lose.
On August 1st of 2017, I didn’t feel overweight, but I knew I wasn’t as in-shape as I wanted to be. That’s the date when my wife, Kelly and I embarked on our journey following the Robb Wolf nutrition program he describes in his book, Wired to Eat. If you aren’t familiar with the program or the article I wrote when I first discovered it, I’d encourage you to start by reading that here.
Before I get into my weight, many have asked my height and I’m 5’ 9.5” (the half matters!) My weight used to fluctuate all over the place, mostly in the range of 188 to as high as 194 lbs. during a carb-filled weekend of thinking my eating was healthy and just fine. Six pounds is a normal fluctuation, I’d tell myself.
I told myself a lot of things that 2018 me is still pissed about. Things that sounded like an Oprah affirmation, “I can eat bread every day, still be healthy and lose weight!” That and dumb motivational speeches, where I’d tell myself to just work harder in the gym and that I wasn’t pushing myself enough.
Coincidentally, you’ve probably heard the same thing from fitness programs and heaven forbid, a “personal trainer.” Sorry, not sorry to anyone out there with one. Save that money for the new clothes you’ll be buying after you fire them and give what I’ve been following a shot.
This probably sounds like a ploy to sell you on seven-minute abs or something. Trust me, it’s not. As much as I want to convince you to follow this program by touting all the benefits it will bestow upon you, I know from personal experience that unless something clicks, you’ll keep skimming articles like this with a “yeah, right” mentality.
So what do you have to look forward to by giving a shit about your nutrition? Feeling great, sleeping better, kicking your food addictions and cravings, living disease free and even living longer! I’ll dive deeper into these and more, as you read the top 10 benefits I’ve seen since changing my life. I would be remiss though if I didn’t mention the mindset portion of undertaking this type of transformation.
What I was eating was causing inflammation inside my body that I couldn’t see
Yes, everyone would love to look better in a swimsuit. Yes, everyone has the desire to shed unnecessary pounds. However, what worked for me and Kelly was not focusing on those benefits as our motivation. It was focusing on the longer-term effects on our health; living disease-free for as long as possible. How many times have you thought that? Us either, we didn’t start thinking that way until we read Wired to Eat.
Guess what? When we didn’t focus on how we looked, or how much weight we lost, (we made ourselves avoid a scale for the first few months) those things just improved on their own.
As you’ll read later, I personally wasn’t even focused on getting to the gym. We both truly let go and let the program do what it does best. I feel that our increased self-esteem was the biggest by-product of this all. I found I didn’t care about how people saw me or if I got any recognition for losing weight, I felt amazing and that’s all that mattered.
Here are those benefits, ending with what I feel is the most important.
Benefit #10: Inflammation Be Gone!
Health is something I’d never put enough weight into. My previous article talked about the kind of things I was eating that I’d assumed were good for me. However, what I was eating was causing inflammation inside my body that I couldn’t see. Not only was that inflammation weakening my immune system, but it was causing me to have less energy, high cholesterol, less sex and… Well, that last one is about as bad as it gets, but I digress.
After a year, my cholesterol is in the normal range (despite eating bacon nearly every day) and I just feel amazing! It’s tough to describe the difference in how I feel, but that’s why this benefit is ranked at the bottom of the list. It’s still important, but others in the list go more into what’s contributed to the overall amazing way I’ve been feeling.
I’ll also quickly add that Kelly had chronic hip pain before we started eating healthier, that’s gone completely now and she feels it’s all because those inflammatory foods are gone too. It might sound cliché, but perhaps an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure.
Benefit #9: More Energy!
I’m on a roll lately, not only am I at least 50% more productive at work, but I don’t come home exhausted and wanting to plop down on the couch and watch TV. Both Kelly and I have gotten in the habit of cooking dinner every night when we get home and more often than not, we’ll then work on personal projects we want to accomplish around the house.
I’m in the middle of restoring an Arcade Cabinet that I’m almost through with, prior to that it was fixing up an old Pinball Machine. Next, I’m going to tackle a classic car restoration project. That’s not counting the multiple home renovation projects that always pop up on a regular basis. I used to be the kind of person that knew exactly what the next step was to move a project towards completion (Getting Things Done) and I’d spend too much time writing those steps down. I’m still as anal retentive as ever, but now I just grab the ladder and get started. I worry about “what’s next” after I’ve made progress on something that I couldn’t wrap up as quickly as I wanted to.
Benefit #8: No More Cravings!
This used to be a huge problem for me, but I never saw it. I’d come home at the end of the day and basically eat two dinners. There’d be the snack(s) that would extend into the dinner prep and right into an oversized portion of dinner. Overeating was right there in front of my mouth, but I didn’t see it.
When you give up things like sugar, dairy and carbs, I mean truly stop, it sucks. I’m not going to lie, the hardest part of anything this past year was the 30-day detox at the beginning of the program, where Kelly and I had to give all the “good stuff” up. I don’t envy the people that had to be around me during those first two weeks that it took to kick sugar. They probably wanted to kick my sugar.
Neither Kelly or I have been to rehab, but it’s the closest thing we have to compare the feeling of giving up sugar to. Kelly didn’t have physical cravings after the detox period, but emotionally she was still attached because of her love for baking bread and desserts. She had to create new baking habits to help her completely eliminate her “cravings” and that took about 7-8 months before she naturally stopped thinking about making something sweet for the kids.
Even though the FDA disagrees with me, I do think sugar is a drug. I can sniff out sugar like a bloodhound now and you’d be surprised how naturally sweet everything is after you remove the fake crap you’re used to. Sugar is in so many things it boggles my mind. It can also be the number one cause of inflammation in our bodies, however, everyone is different and Wired to Eat addresses this.
To bring this back down to earth, eliminating these foods has the side effect of eliminating the cravings you have for them. That pull that sugar has on you is brutal, but once it’s gone, you really do feel free. I’m sure you’ve realized this, but when the cravings go away, so does the overeating. Your portion size naturally decreases and you feel full faster. This benefit is a two-fer.
Benefit #7: Changing the Relationship with Food
We’ve all had that “God I’m stuffed” feeling after eating, loud noises caused by digestion and just being overall miserable after meals. That’s your body trying to tell you something. In Police work, they call that a clue. As mentioned in the last section, I now have the superhero-like ability to detect crappy food and avoid it. This has come from actually trying things a time or two that I’d previously given up. Kelly and I both had so much time feeling what it was like to not have to worry about being miserable after a meal, that when we felt that for a short amount of time… Well, there’s no better way to reinforce that you don’t want to eat those things than that.
The hard part was using new recipes and re-learning how to eat
So, as faux pas as this is, let’s talk about gas. It’s real and eating whole natural foods gives you more of it. Whether its cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, or eggs (boy do I eat a lot of them), it’s going to cause you to have more gas than you had before. Everyone does it, even dogs, but that somehow doesn’t make it any less embarrassing when you let one slip in public. Guilty. The good part is that 99% of the time the odor isn’t there. I’m going to have to move on, as I can’t believe I’m writing about farts!
Back to food and what Kelly and I eat now. This part is going to sound bland and boring, but that’s the point! What I truly mean when I say that my relationship to food has changed, it means that I look at it now like fuel for the reactor. It’s what the body needs to keep driving the machine forward. Sure, we still enjoy meals out and even sharing a bottle of wine once in a while, but we avoid anything with a drive-thru and know how to make healthy choices everywhere we go. We opt out of bread or chips that are offered before the entrees and we know how to ask for meal substitutions without being “that” type of customer.
Breakfast is big and usually consists of 2-3 eggs scrambled or over medium, 1-2 pieces of bacon, fruit like a banana or berries, a small glass of fresh squeezed orange juice that I make myself at home, coffee and a tall glass of water with lemon. We’ll also sometimes make smoothie recipes from the Paleo magazine we subscribe to. There are all kinds of good recipes in there.
Lunch is almost always leftovers from dinner the night before. Even if we ate at a restaurant, we always come home with leftovers now that we’re eating smaller portions. I’ll usually eat an apple or clementine with my lunch as well. I’ll also admit here to my addiction for water that’s been transported next to fruit, i.e. naturally flavored sparkling water. One of those is usually in my lunch box I bring to work too.
Dinners were first very tough for us, eating at home was nothing new and we both love to cook. The hard part was using recipes while we were re-learning how to eat again. We’d sometimes spend 2-3 hours in the kitchen with meal prep, cooking, eating, storing leftovers and cleaning up. It was exhausting, but it got better as we got a feel for how we could make our own meals.
We originally started out with the recipes in the Wired to Eat book, but very much disliked them. Some were hard to understand and equally hard to make, the taste wasn’t fantastic either. Kelly then bought a book by Danielle Walker called Against All Grain. It’s phenomenal and the level of detail provided for making the meals is equally incredible. Plus they taste good!
In terms of what we’d make for dinner, the answer is that it varies. Most follow a pattern of Protein-Vegetable-Fat-Spice. For the two of us, our cooked meal ingredients wind up looking a lot like this, 1 lb. of lean protein (chicken breast, chicken thigh, Salmon, shrimp, pork loin, ground beef, beef stew meat, bacon, eggs); 2-8 cups of vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, avocado, spinach, sweet potato, spaghetti squash, acorn or butternut squash); 2-3 tbsp. of fat (ghee, butter, avocado oil, olive oil, bacon grease) and a few teaspoons of spices (oregano, garlic powder, dill, ginger, rosemary, pepper). Some meals turn out boring, but for the most part we have varied meals that are really delicious. Plus we’ve learned shortcuts with an InstaPot and our slow-cooker so that cooking at home is faster in the evenings.
Benefit #6: Better Groceries
It’s often said that to eat healthy, you should shop around the outside of the grocery store and stay out of the aisles. That’s mostly been true, however, some grocery stores are getting with the times and now have a couple aisles dedicated to better food. Kroger is just one example locally and they actually have signs within these healthy aisles which state that products found there are “free from 101 artificial ingredients and preservatives.”
When Kelly and I first started eating as Wolf recommends in Wired to Eat, our grocery habits changed dramatically. We were never ones to eat out more than once a week, but that’s now more like once a month. We used to go to the grocery store about every week and a half, but now it’s definitely a weekly routine.
The lack of cravings really help with the insatiability
Not only do we go every week now, but we wind up typically going to two different grocery stores, because we’re picky about our produce and fruit more than ever. Picky as in wanting it to last as long as possible and taste good.
These things often look good sitting in the store, but when you get them home, they’ll only last a few days at best.
Locally we float between Kroger, Sprouts and a new place called Market Street. We’ll also hit Sam’s Club for produce, oddly enough we’ve found that they have some of the best produce around and it’s in bulk too. That may seem like a lot, but we don’t spend more than an hour to an hour and a half per week at the grocery store. When you’re not going up and down every aisle, trips take much less time, especially when you’re getting the same things.
Something I’ll mention here is that you might be thinking that eating the same things all the time gets bland and boring. I’ll admit that sometimes I do feel that way, but it’s very rare. The lack of cravings really help with the insatiability we used to have when it came to changing up what we ate all the time. It’s a strange by-product that we didn’t expect.
Benefit #5: Exercising Less
Yep, you read that right. As I described at the beginning of this article (congrats if you’re still with me) I used to beat myself up because if I wasn’t disciplined enough to workout 6 days a week. Now I know that discipline starts with what I’m putting in my body, not just what I’m trying to burn off. Newsflash, if you don’t put it in, you don’t have to burn it off. I’m only working out 3 times a week at best. It feels really good to say that, because old me would have felt embarrassed at that statement.
Both Kelly and I walk the dog on a daily basis and that’s around two miles, so even if I don’t work out, I’m still getting that kind of exercise. There were a few months when we first started the Wired to Eat plan, where I wasn’t working out at all other than walking and the pounds were still falling off. I’m sure everyone will find they have different results and of course goals, but here are mine.
Feel fit, content, pain-free and happy with my progress.
Workout or participate in any activity without injuries.
Run a mile at a pace of 7:00 min. to 7:30.
Do 15-20 continuous pull-ups without kipping.
Have good form with Olympic lifts, snatch, squat, deadlift, etc.
Swim a continuous mile in about 35 minutes.
Stretch daily and stay flexible.
These goals are all about maintenance, I’m almost 40 and I’m over trying to prove myself to anyone. It’s not about how much I can lift or how fast I can go, it’s about how I feel and what makes me happy. A lot of this is a shift in priorities, but that shift wouldn’t have happened without the benefits I’m describing in this article.
It’s been amazing to see how all of my goals fell in line after eating better and losing the weight I have. I was most amazed at how my run times dropped and how much easier it was to do pull-ups without an extra 25 lbs. I’ve always hated running, but now I hate it less because I enjoy it more. I still don’t go on long runs like I used to years ago, but I also don’t have any injuries and my knees feel great. So there’s that.
I plan to start playing Ice Hockey (goalie) again soon, so I’ll get back to you on that knee thing.
Benefit #4: Better Sleep
This is a pretty simple benefit to explain, not only is sleep deeper, but I remember dreams more vividly now. I can now get to sleep within 5-10 minutes of turning out the light and jump out of bed refreshed when my alarm goes off. Before, I’d toss and turn, get up in the middle of the night, lie there unable to sleep and hit the snooze multiple times on my alarm.
We’re typically in bed by 10:00 p.m., but sometimes it’s 9:30 or even 11 if we’re too energized. That’s the weird thing about increased energy levels, they can sometimes carry into the evening. Even on the nights we’re up later, that instant sleep still applies.
In the mornings I’m up by 4:30 a.m. and I either workout first thing or make a cup of coffee and work on a project. Kelly is usually up by 5:30, depending on how early our Doberman wants her to wake up. I’m getting 6.5 to 7 hours of sleep and I’ve found that to be a perfect number for me. It’s way more than I used to get and even on the weekends I’m up at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. I hate wasting the weekends sleeping in, ain’t nobody got time for that!
Benefit #3: Better Sex
Yep, it really is better. Some of you may be eating while you’re reading this, so I’ll spare you the details. Just think of anything you’d like to improve with your sex life. Whoa! I mean within reason, we’re not talking fantasy here. The answer is yes, it’s all better.
Benefit #2: New Clothes and a Side of Self-Esteem
For years I’d talked myself into thinking that I needed to wear large shirts because a medium looked like a schmedium on me. Really it was being self-conscious about seeing my weight more in a medium shirt that was causing me to buy a size up. What I’m truly thankful for though is that I was able to address my problem before it was two sizes up.
I want to see those I’m close with become the best version of themselves they can be
The downside of losing weight, if you could call anything at all a downside, is having to buy new clothes. I went from a 34” waist to a 31” waist and it was ridiculous trying to still wear shorts and pants from my old size. Over the past year I’ve replaced at least half my clothes, including almost all my pants, shorts and belts. There’s only so much you can tighten a belt before the tail looks ridiculous. Weight loss was an amazing feeling and one that I’ve never really felt the same way about before. Yes, I’ve lost weight in the past, but I’ve never stuck with something long enough to truly appreciate the lasting feeling it gives you.
As the weight fell off, so did my fucks to give. Sorry for the vulgarity, but there’s no better way to describe it. That newfound attitude has also been the most interesting part of my self-reflection during this whole thing. After I’d lost enough to feel good about myself again, my self-esteem increased and I stopped caring what people thought.
I feel that the people that say they’re happy and content with extra weight are wearing that as a mask. I’m guilty of it too, so I’m not judging. I have the ability to judge someone on their merit and not on their weight, but I always want to see those I’m close with become the best version of themselves they can be. While I understand the “I’m happy the way I am” line, I feel deep down they’re not. I wasn’t and I didn’t feel like I had much I needed to lose.
Earlier I said that it wasn’t about how good I looked in a swimsuit. For me that’s true now, but as a caveat, there was a point that I had to get to before I felt comfortable enough not to care. If that makes any sense.
Benefit #1: Weight Loss!
The biggest benefit of losing weight is obviously weight loss, so no big revelation here, I just wanted to add this to reinforce this fact. I currently weigh between 168 and 170 lbs. (that’s a 2 lb. fluctuation by the way) and I’ve never felt better, healthier and more full of energy!
My scale usage is an interesting thing to discuss. In terms of a graph, it would look like a flat line moving to the right on a timeline for the first 3 months. It would then gradually increase as it crept towards the year mark. Meaning that I’m checking my weight way more than ever now. The only thing I can think of as a reason, is that I’m more worried now than ever that I’m going to fall back into how I was before.
Maybe that’s a good thing, or maybe it’s something I need to work on. I haven’t figured it out yet. On one hand I feel it’s good to not want to fall back into old habits and more weight, but on the other it seems contrary to my lack of fucks to give.
With this being the 1-year follow-up to my original article on Wired to Eat, I feel it’s important to mention how things have changed. Kelly and I are still making meals the same way, but we’re also not beating ourselves up as bad for splitting a piece of cake at a birthday (when we can tolerate it). Sweets are just too damn sweet now. You’re going to laugh, but we both talk about how we can actually taste the sweetness in 88% dark chocolate we keep around for snacks.
People can be timid around us when they learn the way we eat, as if they have to make special accommodations or a particular dish for us. This was especially true with family. We’d always just mention they should get what they wanted eat and we’d eat what we could. We’ve gotten used to being in situations where what was available to eat wasn’t ideal, but without hunger pangs and the desire to keep eating, it hasn’t been an issue to be selective about what we eat.
Something we’ve also run into is that describing how the program has worked for us and the success we’ve had with it, has made people uneasy. Whether that’s an internal voice beating them up for not doing something like that too, or that they think we’re judging them for not eating the way we do (that’s certainly not something we’ve ever done), it’s a weird feeling that we try not to focus on.
Explaining our progress to people has gotten easier and perhaps that’s part of what’s made the awkwardness not occur as much anymore. Either that or we’ve already had that initial conversation with most everyone we know.
If I can leave you with one thing it’s that the answer to your weight loss goals isn’t in a supplement, shake, smoothie, or other miracle pills. Don’t you think if there was a pill for easy weight loss that would stay gone, there’d be a prescription that was already treating the obesity epidemic in the United States?
Remember, you have to do this for yourself and it’s all about the choices you make in what you put into your body. I’d highly encourage you to toss on the audiobook from Wired to Eat next time you’re in the car. That’s how I started and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.
I do read the comments, so any questions you have or anything I can do to help you out as you start down this path, please let me know.
p.s. I still struggle with those before and after dinner snacks.
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